Is This Ad Transphobic?

A joke sets off a debate about LGBT portrayals in advertising

One of Ireland’s biggest cell phone providers is giving off what trans activists are calling a bad signal. In a new ad that’s being screened on television and in advance of films touting Meteor‘s wifi service, a young man goes to all lengths to get a single – even riding behind a bus and creeping around outside the neighbor’s house. But it’s the  drag bar sequence that has some people seeing red. It’s used to convey where not to go just to get free wifi. And while it’s supposed to solicit a laugh, the Transgender Equality Network in Ireland (TENI) isn’t pleased with the portrayal. The group has criticized the ad for “encouraging a cheap laugh at the expense of trans people.”

In a recent health survey, it’s estimated that 40 percent of trans people in Ireland have attempted suicide at least once. “The figures are shocking,” says TENI Director Broden Giambrone. And plenty of consumers seem to be agreeing with Giambrone as they voice condemnation for the commercial on social media sites like Twitter (#MeteorShame).

“Trans people are among the most marginalised people in Ireland,” says Giambrone. “They are Irish residents and taxpayers, and are still not recognized by the state in their true gender. They are not accorded their basic human rights. Meteor’s ad makes fun of a vulnerable group of people and dehumanises them. It is unacceptable.”

Meteor is defending the ad, which was recently broadcast during the evening news, saying they used “professional drag artists” who were not intended to cause offense.

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